November 7, 2022 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — 1 Thessalonians 5:23
May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We want to be dedicated to God, but often find our hearts being lured in other directions. We can hold back, giving God part of ourselves but not all. Scripture suggests that complete dedication to God is possible because God, by grace, is in the process of helping us give more and more of ourselves to God.
The devotion is part of the series: Encouragement from 1 Thessalonians.
Are you completely dedicated to God? I’m guessing that most readers of Life for Leaders will answer this question negatively. No matter how much we are committed to God, we all experience occasional resistance to God. I do at least. Though I’ve been a Christian for 59 years, and though I’ve lived with fairly consistent dedication to God, there are still parts of my life that I cling to as my own. There are times I want to live my way rather than God’s way. Perhaps you can relate.
The wish prayer in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 gives hope to those of us who would like to be more fully dedicated to God. In the NRSV the first part of this verse reads, “May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely.” That’s an accurate translation of the Greek. But, for many of us, the language of sanctification can be somewhat off-putting. Apart from church or seminary, we don’t use the verb “to sanctify” or the noun “sanctification.” Thus, we may be unsure of what it means.
I find it helpful to think in terms of dedication when we come upon the biblical language of sanctification. To be sanctified is to be dedicated to God in heart, soul, mind, and strength. Dedication is something we understand more intuitively. Thus, the Common English Bible translates 1 Thessalonians 5:23 in this way, “Now, may the God of peace himself cause you to be completely dedicated to him.” I find this phrasing to be helpful. (You may recall that back in September I wrote a devotion called “The Case for Dedication” in which I explained in more detail why “dedication” is a helpful translation.)
The fact that Paul and his co-writers pray that God will cause the Thessalonians “to be completely dedicated to him” gives us hope because it implies that this quality of dedication to God is possible. We aren’t told whether full dedication to God could occur in this life or whether it is reserved for the life to come. But even if we believe that complete dedication will only happen after our mortal lives are over, there is still in 1 Thessalonians a strong assumption that we can in fact become more and more dedicated to God in this life. (See, for example, 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 4:3; 4:7.)
So, the wish prayer in 1 Thessalonians 5:23 gives us hope. But it gives us something more as well. It reminds us that we cannot cause ourselves to be wholly dedicated to God. Our intentions and efforts do play a part in this process. But ultimate dedication – what theologians call sanctification – is something God does. God is the only one who can cause us to be completely dedicated to God.
Thus, 1 Thessalonians 5:23 encourages us to ask for this work of God in our lives. Yes, to be sure, we can make choices that will help us be more devoted to God. And we can say “no” to the things that lure our hearts away from the Lord. But, if we want to be more completely dedicated to God, our first move isn’t to try harder, but rather to pray. God, by grace, will indeed help us to be more dedicated to God and God’s kingdom if we ask.
In what ways do you experience being dedicated to God?
In what ways do you resist complete dedication to God?
Are you willing to ask the Lord to cause you to be fully dedicated to God? If so, why? If not, why not?
This week, as you get ready to do your work (whether paid or unpaid), ask the Lord to help you be fully dedicated to God in all you do.
God of peace, you know me through and through. You know the ways I am truly dedicated to you. And you know the ways I resist. You know the parts of life I want to hold onto. You know my hesitations and fears.
So I ask you today, gracious God, to cause me to be completely dedicated to you: heart, soul, mind, and strength. May I be dedicated to you as I do my work. May I be dedicated to you in all of my relationships. May I be dedicated to you in the way I speak and act. May I be dedicated to you when it comes to how I spend my money. May I be dedicated to you in my desires for this life and my dreams for the future.
By your grace, help me to give all that I am to you, Lord, so that I might truly exist for the praise of your glory. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the High Calling archive, hosted by the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: “Be Holy Because I Am Holy”.
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.
What a timely scripture for today. As a United Methodist pastor. I am familiar with sanctifying grace yet I am not always. I am in a period of discernment at 67 as to the next five years of ministry and what they will look like. I have bathed this time in prayer and asking God for his direction. At the same time I am doing my work. I have had a life coach the past year and we dove into me and what makes me do good in ministry and where me struggles in it all. I have a spiritual director. I seek wise counsel and I study God’s word. I say that not to brag but to say I am seeking to do my part in the process as best I can knowing I will still fail some days and I still have struggles. I find relief in knowing it is God who sanctifies not me. It is by his grace I am justified and his continuing grace sanctifies as I do my part. I liken it to a garden. I can toss out seed on the ground and ask God to do the rest or I can cultivate the ground. Plant intentionally. Pull out the weeds. Then ask God to bring the rain and the sun.
I am so thankful for you and Life for Leaders. This is a great tool for me to use for reflection and today, a bit of rededication to the tasks before me.
Thank you, Stephen, for your thoughtful comment and your encouragement.